Charlotte portrait

Interview with Charlotte Hildebrand

Charlotte Hildebrand was our first comic book artist at the 360 Xochi Quetzal residency program. Charlotte lives and works in Los Angeles and is a genuinely funny person. She moved from New York to LA in the mid-80s to study at the American Film Institute. After school, however, instead of going to work in the industry, she produced her first child. While raising her children she worked as a writer and editor for various non-profit arts organizations, as a journalist and freelance book editor, as well as taught ESL. After the kids left home, however, she began an art practice, which continues to this day. Charlotte started her exploration of art by putting up wheat-paste posters in the dead of night around Los Angeles, which led to working as a muralist, painter, illustrator and cartoonist. She is presently working on a graphic memoir about growing up in segregated Louisville, KY. She also teaches graphic memoir and comic arts at the Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock, a community based non-profit in LA, as well as teaching a private online workshop called Kuarantine Komics. -dek

Charlotte Hillenbrand
Grief Map comic by Charlotte Hildebrand

Give us some background about yourself as a comic artist.

When writing and editing work dried up in the 2008/9 recession, I began a blog. Mainly I wanted to get some stories and essays down that I had been working on for years. Out of nowhere (that may not be true, but it felt that way) I started to illustrate the stories, reaching back to an earlier time when I drew a lot. My blog posts picked up steam with those illustrations, which propelled me into melding text and images, but I didn’t have a name for it yet. Then I went to hear Allison Bechdel talk at the LA Public Library about her first book, Fun Home. It blew me away. I can honestly say it was a revelation: how one could tell stories through images, and in the doing so, elevating the story into another dimension. The mere fact of putting images to text like you do in a film, (remember I had studied filmmaking) changed everything. Not that I knew where to begin, but as I learned later, most comic writers/artists are self-taught. For me, comics became my métier.

Why was it important for you to attend a residency at this point in your career and what made you choose 360 Xochi Quetzal for your residency?

I’d been working on a compilation of coming of age stories, when the politics of our country changed and I found myself manically shifting my attention to political cartoons.  Steve Brodner, one of our country’s foremost political cartoonists was offering an online class through SVA, which I readily signed up for. During one of his sessions, he assigned a graphic memoir exercise, with comic panels, which is where everything really began to take shape. Last year I continued my study of graphic memoir in NYC with Amy Kurzweil, a cheeky cartoonist published in the New Yorker and Huffington Post. Back home I was getting stuck and started thinking about what I needed.  My vision included: being surrounded by people working on projects, while I also worked, but without interference, if you know what I mean. I remembered a friend mentioning this residency on Lake Chapala and when I looked into it, the one residence that was available for the time I could be there, seemed to fit my needs perfectly. And it did. I was able to complete 4 rather difficult chapters while I was in Chapala.

What changed for you in your work, goals and ideas as a result of this residency? 

I think the first thing was meeting Cobra and taking a tour of her studio. To see a woman take charge of her space, her work, her output, and to be able to work with community, was very inspiring and made me want to work harder. Also inspiring was seeing how hard the other artists in the residency were working. I felt strengthened by their commitment to their work. In Chapala, my own output was steady. I worked through a difficult historical passage about Louisville (when the fight for social justice meant you were a Communist), and some other more personal stories, which bolstered my desire to continue with the memoir. Until that point it was an iffy proposition— would I continue or not?—but after the residency I knew I would finish the book.

Fauci comic by Charlotte Hildebrand

What were the highlights of your residency? Tell us about a typical day in the life in Chapala, Mexico. 
I love Mexico, I’ve been to Mexico City and Oaxaca a handful of times and I always thought I’d go back there, but Lake Chapala called to me. On the website people called the residency magical and the town definitely had a special quality. Being on the lake was amazing, the musicians at night along the boardwalk, walking everywhere, a busy blue collar town as opposed to a tourist destination (although it’s that too). A typical day would be get up and do some yoga, make tea, sit down and work for about 4-5 hours on whatever chapter I was working on, and then around 5, walk to the little park, towards the lagoon, where the birds gathered. I was endlessly drawn to the the various types of birds. There were herons of all kinds: green, great blue, little blues, and night herons. Pelicans; egrets; black birds and swifts would also come out to this area before sunset and nest in the trees and the tall grasses. It was fascinating to watch and hear, and a peaceful way to end the day. (although sometimes I went back to my casita and worked for another couple hours).

Tell us about your creative process. You are working on a graphic memoir. Please tell us more about this form and how do you develop your ideas?

Well, the first thing I can tell you about my creative process is it’s not a straight line. I can spend weeks ruminating about something, and not know how to approach it, and it slips away. Or sometimes I spend weeks working on an idea and it ends up not working and I have to give it up. The stuff that works and is most meaningful, usually comes to me like a feeling that I can only describe as “whole.” I can put it down on paper and draw it out from beginning to end. It has a logic to it, with a complete arc. I used to be most inspired by taking long walks where an idea would pop into my head while walking. That still happens, but now, working on the memoir is more about sitting down at my desk and taking a deep dive into the past. I just completed a chapter about having to end a forbidden love affair when I was 16, because my father forbade it. But what I had forgotten, after I thought I’d finished the chapter, was how at one point in that relationship, I was sitting at my mother’s vanity, looking into the mirror, and asking myself existential questions, such as, was this what people called love? Was it love, or did I just have a stomach ache? All those memories came rushing back once I sat down and started writing/illustrating that chapter of forbidden love.

Breona comic by Charlotte Hildebrand
Runaway Slave comic by Charlotte Hildebrand
Wendy's comic by Charlotte Hildebrand

You are teaching a Kuarantine Komics class (great title!) and also a class on 4-panel comics. We would love to hear more about these unique offerings including your teaching philosophy and approach.

I really love teaching and seeing student work is one of the most satisfying feelings a teaching artist can have. Peoples’ stories are endlessly fascinating and I love seeing that students can execute their versions of your idea in ways one never would have imagined. But I don’t teach technique, in fact I encourage people to draw like they did as children, the more raw the better. I also discourage using an eraser. When the pandemic first began, I set up a workshop on Zoom called Kuarantine Komics to give people a place to express their fears and apprehensions. I encouraged people to draw what they were feeling without restrictions and not worry about limitations they had as artists. One young woman took off, a budding comic artist just waiting for the right moment to explode! My adult children were part of the class too and it was gratifying to see what great artists they both were.

My classes through the Center of the Arts Eagle Rock, a community based non-profit started out last year, and then moved to Zoom in March. These classes are more challenging, especially since our country has been in such upheaval. I warm up the class by giving different drawing prompts.  For self portraits, say, I suggest drawing 3 sides of yourself— your private, public and aspiring selves. And then we jump into the main theme of the evening. I’ll give prompts on a specific topic to get them going. Comics allow a place to say what’s on your mind, and the more raw the drawings, the more meaningful they are for the artist and viewers. The only down side is it’s harder for this teacher on Zoom. I want to stand over my students’ shoulders and point out the minutia that can make the difference between a good comic and a great one.  But on Zoom I’ve had to let the teaching flow in a new way. And the comics from those classes have really been great.

XQ Irwin featured image

Interview with Elizabeth Irwin

Elizabeth hiking on mountain with Sinatra

Elizabeth Irwin is a playwright, screenwriter, and teacher based in New York City. She has come to 360 Xochi Quetzal each summer for the last three years to work on a specific project. Last year she came with her sidekick Sinatra. There are a lot of nuggets here for aspiring writers. Enjoy the interview.

You have been to Chapala three times as part of the 360 Xochi Quetzal personal residency program. What keeps you coming back?

I find Chapala to be a wonderful, typical Mexican town. It’s not overrun by tourists. It’s lively but quiet. The food is wonderful and inexpensive. The people are friendly and it’s just really nice to be able to shop at the weekly open air markets, walk by the lake, enjoy traditional food and practice my Spanish while still having hours every day to devote to my writing. I also find Cobra and her husband to be excellent hosts and have very much enjoyed getting to know them. 

What benefits have you derived from the residencies?

Having time and space away from my typical obligations in New York is vital. Having the luxury of simply being. Creating the rhythm of my own days. Taking advantage of what Chapala has to offer on some days and staying quiet on others, taking it all in from the rooftop as I look at the mountains and the  sky. 

 How has each residency been different for you?

As I get to know the town better, I find my own little secret delights and then return to the ones I love. This past year I brought my dog and she pulled me (literally) off in new directions too including an excellent juice stand, far from the center of town so I have to thank her for that!. 

Elizabeth hiking to the Ajijic waterfall

What are you currently working on?

I am working on a TV pilot about sex workers advocating for their rights as well as rewriting a TV pilot about a public school teacher coach. I’m also working on a play about a group of women in a domestic violence support group. 

What are some highlights of this residency program for you? How can we make this program better?

The highlight for me is the very open nature of the residency. It’s as isolated or social as you want. It’s as low key or intense as you desire. I wouldn’t change anything! 

 What other residencies have you attended and how does 360 Xochi Quetzal compare?

Most of the other residences I’ve attended (Space on Ryder Farm, Omega Institute,  Primary Stages at Bennington College, Playwrights Realm Alumni Retreat) are more group focused which is nice. It creates a sense of camaraderie. But this feeds the other part of my personality that just wants to do her own little thing and not speak to anyone until after noon. 

Sinatra waiting patiently for a walk

Tell us about who you are as a writer and the trajectory of your career.

I’m a playwright who is branching out into TV writing and memoir writing. I’m concerned with social justice issues and how the personal and political don’t just intersect but lie in bed with each other all day everyday. I started off writing pretty straightforward naturalistic plays but recently felt more comfortable playing around with form. I like the idea of having art imitate life. Yes, our lives progress in this straightforward naturalistic way in one sense. But when you account for our rich inner lives and how they live alongside our day to day, you see how a true accounting of life can encompass both of those. 

What productions are in the works for you in the coming year

I’m a member of the Primary Stages Dorothy Strelsin New American Writers Group and we have a reading series every spring in which we showcase what we worked on throughout the year. That is my current focus – figuring out how to work with heart and a clear vision on my piece this year. 

How do you support yourself as a writer?

I began my career as a teacher so I still do a lot of work in the education field – part-time teaching, consulting for education nonprofits, training teachers. I make some money from writing, too. 

 What advice do you have for writers who are starting out? 

Learn your own unique process for writing and rewriting and then accept it and work within it. Don’t beat yourself up because your process isn’t like someone else’s or how you think it should be. I had to learn that the first time I hear criticism I hate it and think it’s stupid. Usually after I go home, take a walk, or a bath,  I can actually hear what was said and then consider it for rewrites. That’s just how I am and I share this with my collaborators so they understand my reactions. I also know that I write best I focus on small chunks and that I need a lot of support around structure. Therefore I make my schedule like that and I invest in getting the support I need. Figure out what works for you and then don’t fight it. 

On the patio of residency House
Walking Sinatra on the Chapala Malecon

Interview with Jennifer Angus

360 Xochi Quetzal not only offers residencies to younger, emerging artists, but also rewards the efforts of artists like Professor of Textile Design, Jennifer Angus (University of Wisconsin – Madison). Much has been written about Jennifer Angus’s wallpaper influenced installations created with thousands of beetles and bugs (see interview links below). We focused this interview on some of the more personal aspects of her residency.

You have the kind of career that many artists dream of including opportunities to exhibit internationally, residencies and a tenured position. However, your residency at 360 Xochi Quetzal was unique because there were no external expectations. How was this time significant for you?

I came to the residency with an open mind. I wanted to be a sponge and just soak up the experience, and allow myself time to think and reflect about what I’ve done and where I’m going. I only brought two small projects to get me into the studio. Mostly, I just wanted live in the moment and experience this new place in a meaningful way. I don’t know how this will play into my art practice but I know that being in Mexico will lead to my next great idea and will eventually surface in my work.

Everyone comes to a residency with his or her own goals.  I would describe mine as a reinvestment in myself. I lived, I absorbed and I tucked the experiences away to nurture future projects.

Since your work primarily incorporates insects, it makes sense that coming to Mexico enabled you to work with cochineal, the prized red dye made from ground beetles. What did you discover?

As an insect dye cochineal holds special significance for me. I painted the walls with cochineal solution at the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery but I’ve never used it as a dye for any of my own studio projects. I wanted to see how many reds and purples I could achieve and how deep I could make the color. I learned that the pH of water in Chapala naturally turns the color more towards the purple/magenta side of the spectrum. I had to squeeze a lot of limes into my dye bath to get it more of a tomato red!  So what will I do with all of these bits and pieces? I have no idea yet, but the wheels are turning!.

Being in Mexico also offered you the opportunity to visit the famous forests in Michoacan where the declining Monarch butterflies migrate to spend the winter. Tell us about your experience.

At the reception welcoming the 360 Xochi Quetzal Residents, I met a lot of local artists, and everyone recommended that I go to see the butterfly migration. I am so glad I did! I had no expectation beyond seeing a lot of butterflies and certainly I saw that, but I was not prepared for tree branches virtually encased in butterflies. With their wings closed, the butterflies actually looked more like brown leaves – millions of brown leaves on a pine tree!  

As the day warmed up, the butterflies took to the air and reminded me of maple keys floating to the ground. I have never seen so many insects all clustered together. We tend to think of butterflies as beautiful, but in this instance it was closer to the sublime – magical, beautiful and terrible at the same time. Pictures and film will never do it justice – you have to experience it for yourself!

In terms of my work, it’s too soon to know just how this experience will manifest itself but I felt it was deeply affirming.

Many artists are wrestling with the themes of recycling and ecology. Your work with insects has given you a unique perspective that we’d like to hear more about.

With so much information at our fingertips, we rarely feel amazed anymore. My hope is that visitors who walk into one of my installations say, “Wow!” and experience a feeling of wonder and perhaps pause to think about the patterns they see or ask about how many insects died for this exhibition.  That can start a great conversation about the environment. Most people are unaware that virtually every endangered insect is a result of habitat loss, not over-collection. I can guarantee there is a small six-legged creature in your area that is threatened due to urban/suburban encroachment. We need them as pollinators and we need them to decompose matter. We need insects to survive!

Most of my insects come from rain forests, which we all know are so terribly threatened. Insects are a renewable resource IF they have a habitat. When people who get upset about my work are moved to do something, I feel like I have made a difference. What are you doing for the environment? Also, I reuse the insects from exhibition to exhibition and have been using some of them for  over 15 years.  You can go to my web site and read more about

In addition to your well-known installations, you are also an author and have published artist books. Tell us about this part of your creative life and how it fits into your other work.

In 2013, Albert Whitman and Co. published my novel, In Search of Goliathus Hercules, which grew out of my studio work and featured an eccentric collector (who is in fact my alter ego). In 2004, I mounted an exhibition entitled Goliathus Hercules at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, named for the large, fictitious insect that I discovered and collected.  I created a model of Goliathus Hercules with the body parts of other insects (in the great hoax tradition). Included in the exhibition was a diary that I also invented as a record of the explorer’s arduous jungle journey in the name of science and fame. Not coincidentally, the diary begins on April 1st.

The story didn’t seem finished, so I created a trilogy of episodic exhibitions entitled A Terrible Beauty, which explores collecting from the viewpoint of the eccentric Victorian collector.  To my great surprise a publisher approached me to write the story behind the exhibitions and thus In Search of Goliathus Hercules was born. The books considerably expand upon my original story and  follow our hero, Henri Bell, a boy who discovers he has the unique ability to speak to insects.

Prior to this invitation, I had often made a connection between my work and children’s literature because curiosity, imagination and magic are key ingredients.  As children become adolescents and then adults, insects become dirty and repellent. A children’s book seems like a natural progression to me and allows me the opportunity to share my work with a much larger audience.

Sometimes we can accommodate a partner or family member during the residency. Your son Sasa, who is also one of your studio assistants, spent two weeks with you. How did he help you and how did this enhance the residency?

It was wonderful to have my son with me because he lives on the other side of the country now and we don’t get much time to see each other.  He took on the job of grinding cochineal insects into the fine powder necessary for a successful dye bath. In addition, he cut the paper for the pages of an artist’s book edition (30) I was making. He handled the tedious and time-consuming tasks with good humor. Sometimes Sasa ran errands for me so I could spend time in the studio without distraction. He even cooked meals! How times have changed. Since neither of us speaks Spanish, we bumbled along together. It was great to share this experience with him.

There is a wide range of residents at 360 Xochi Quetzal that span younger emerging artists to older and highly accomplished artists like yourself. Tell us a little about the community you formed during the month you were in Mexico.

I really enjoyed meeting the other residents. The writers were in my residency house and we hung out quite a bit, mostly in the evenings for dinner or a stroll on the Malecon to see the sunset. We shared Christmas dinner and celebrated New Year’s together. We got to know local artists and writers who were very welcoming and invited us to various events.

What were some of the highlights of your residency?

In addition to the Monarch pilgrimage, I spent another four days exploring indigenous villages and attending an authentic fiesta with some of the other residents. We also had a spectacular trip to see the pelicans on the other side of the lake.

We had Mocha the Standard Poodle to love and walk. I cried when I had to say good-bye to her. We ate avocados that fell from the tree in the yard every single day! We enjoyed a great Italian gelato shop by the Malecon.  Life was simple, beautiful and good!

Upcoming exhibitions and residencies:

Keeping Watch on Habitat: This exhibition was just installed at the Projective Eye Gallery in Charlotte, NC

ArtsPlace, Annapolis, Nova Scotia, Canada: In April will have an exhibition as part of my artist-in-residence funded as part of Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations.  

Lookabout:  In May I’ll be at MadArt in Seattle for 2 ½ months doing a residency and exhibition. That will coincide with the opening of the Seattle Art Fair:

Cross Pollination: I’ll also have work at 516 Arts in Albuquerque in August

Natural Wonders: An exhibition at the Brandywine Museum  in Pennsylvania  in October


Interview with artist in Entomology Today:

Interview with artist at Woodson Museum, WI

Pribich featured interview articly

Interview with Michael Pribich

Michael Pribich is an artist’s artist who attended 360 Xochi Quetzal in the Spring of 2015. His work is smart, embedded with layers of meaning, beautiful, both pleasing and challenging, often monumental and deeply informed by sense of place. Michael lives and works in New York City and as you will read, also travels the world collecting history, materials and inspiration that he transforms with his keen eye and mind. -dek

In your artist statement you write: “The disparity between classes informs your use of materials….”

Mining the Pueblo is a series of art works that began at 360 Xochi Quetzal. I am still expanding and developing this body of work which utilizes 6a0133ed05424c970b01bb090e19f4970d-320wisynthetic recycled bags as an art material. These bags are mainly used in construction work to move dirt, bricks and refuse materials. The idea is: take a cheap common material and inject it with new meaning that emphasizes the fluidity and movement of this ‘low material‘ to a place of higher consideration. This is the opposite of using say gesso, canvas and oil paint – more traditional (European) materials – in favor of those specifically linked to the concept.  Mining the Pueblo places Mexico’s tradition of work and craft front and center as the concept itself. The leather panels on the bags were done by Victor Parra, a leather worker in Guadalajara, who comes from a family of saddle makers. They are the last generation of working Charros, which adds another layer of meaning and cultural reference. Victor’s contribution is to generate decorative patterns, which refer to vernacular imagery, in the leather stitching. I want the North American audience to look at these patterns as a reflection of its past history with Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. This history is not commonly taught or acknowledged in the USA, yet this country was built on the backs of slaves, on land taken from Native Americans, and land that was formerly Mexico in the present day western United States.

Some artists come to a residency with a particular creative game plan. Others just arrive open to whatever  inspires them at the moment. How did you approach your residency and how did your studio time compare to what you anticipated?

6a0133ed05424c970b01b8d1f47083970c-120wiWhat I had anticipated and what resulted from my 360 Xochi Quetzal residency time could not have been further apart. I did not have a preconceived work plan, and did not have a high expectation for producing art works. I thought I would relax and read, and maybe have some Jalisco road trips to learn more about the local cowboy culture. What happened is that I was given an incredible opportunity – a great gift. The Lopez Cotilla residency house was so big and generous that I felt inspired to create new work. The people in Chapala work a lot, and that was an inspiration too. Seeing this dynamic fit into an idea that I had been thinking about for awhile. This concept, called The Infinite Labor of the Cosmic Race, is a body of work that is about immigrant Mexican workers in New York. The idea comes from the Mexican theorist Vasconcelos that claimed a kind of racial purity for Mexicans and posited them as a unique race. His theories are problematic, yet there are aspects of his thinking that attempts to lift the Mexican psyche.

You travel a great deal. Tell us about where you have been and how this has influenced your work.6a0133ed05424c970b01bb090e1a2d970d-320wi

I have been back to Guadalajara twice since my residency. I really connect there, and I want to continue to develop my Jalisco relationships.

I traveled to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan last fall. I have been traveling in Central Asia the last 4 years — a lifelong dream to see the Silk Road cities and other historic sites. This was my third trip, and the first time that I made art works that are specifically influenced by the place. I made a 5-minute video in the Pamir region of Tajikistan that features a farm worker processing wheat with a pitch fork. The video is slow motion and is accompanied by an Abby Lincoln and Max Roach soundtrack. The piece is about the repetition of work required for sustainable living. The Pamir people live amongst the extremely high mountains of Badakshan on the Pyaj River. Their way of life appears to have not changed much in over 2000 years (though they do carry cell phones -). Afghanistan is 100 yards away on the opposite bank of the river

I am currently participating in the Flux Art Fair in New York -­-‐ an outdoor sculpture fair in Harlem.6a0133ed05424c970b01b7c86a99b7970b-320wi My work Blue Elegy is informed by Zoroastrian and pre-Islamic, pre-Buddhist cultural and religious sites in Central Asia. These settings are often very plain with minimal markings, yet with enormous feeling and presence. Blue Elegy is a series of 12’ high poles made from broom handles on top of which are stainless steel mirror flags. Small bells are attached. Blue Elegy is about the gentrification of Harlem which is not only economic, but also racial and historic; it is the black and brown people of Harlem that are being pushed out. Blue Elegy is a kind of remembrance of the great people and their accomplishments of past and present day Harlem.

Tell us about recent and upcoming exhibitions or residencies.

This past year I’ve had works shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit, and the Bronx River Art Center in the Bronx. Larger bag versions which incorporate repeating inset mirrors have been proposed to the NYC Parks Department, and to the Festival of Regions in Austria.I am currently working on promoting the works I have already done: I want to find a venue for the large mirror bags, for the Pamir video, and a new setting for Blue Elegy. I will be participating in the Jentel Artist Residency in Sheridan, Wyoming in June15 to July 15, 2016.

Where can we read about and see more of your work?   In this interview with Emily Colucci, I talk about 360 Xochi Quetzal. 



Interview with Santiago Galeas

Santiago Galeas is a wildly talented young Latino painter from Philadelphia. In an art world dominated by painting, Santiago’s oil portraits of people of color are truly spectacular and original. It is very exciting to support such a young artist (25) and see where his career will take him.

It seems that your residency was incredibly productive. Tell us what you accomplished. It’s okay to brag!

I worked on five paintings! I even finished one. That’s actually a lot for me. I have been struggling to balance my day job with my studio practice but the month I spent in Chapala was the most freedom I’ve ever had to do my own work. Normally one painting will take me months. I work very slowly so it was a treat to get so much done. All the work started in Chapala will be included in a solo exhibit at A Seed on Diamond Gallery in Philadelphia, PA this coming August.

How did you organize your time while you were here? Readers are often curious about how an artist structures his time.

I would go out in the mornings in search of potential portrait models, and I would also explore Chapala or run errands. There was just so much to see: lake, mountains, shops, Malecon, and of course the Mexican people. Afternoons and evenings were good times for working, but I didn’t really stick to a strict schedule. Having the freedom to work at any time was invaluable.

You were included in Art Miami this past year. That’s quite a feat for a young, emerging artist. Give us a flavor of your experiences at the biggest art fair in the US.

Miami was incredible! The work at Art Miami was very diverse and it was my first time there, so I got to explore the city as well as see the exhibits that were going on. It was impossible to fully experience the art scene in just one weekend and I definitely intend to go back.

How does your ethnic and creative background influence the imagery in your paintings?

I think being Latino, and especially Peruvian, I feel a responsibility to represent indigenous cultures in the images I worked on while in Mexico. My mother was born in Cusco, Peru and  much of her heritage was preserved in my upbringing. It was super useful being able to converse with the Mexican subjects I wanted to work from. I’m fascinated by the endless varieties of Latino diaspora, so being in a location so rich in its ethnically diverse culture was awe-inspiring. My work is largely influenced by an academic training with roots in the French atelier. It’s great being able to portray populations that I wouldn’t normally see in this style.


We loved your application portfolio and were moved by your portraits painted in a unique expressionistic style. Talk about your approach and how you choose the people you paint. Who did you paint while you were in Chapala and how did you find models?

Thank you! The paintings in this blog post show two locals from Chapala. One was a woman who sold me a blanket at the market along the Malecon. The other is one of the Voladores who do their incredible spinning dance right by the lake. I asked them both if I could take a couple photos of them for a painting and they obliged. It was towards the end of the residency when we took that trip to the villages in Michoacán that I got a ton of references for future paintings. Generally I try to paint people who aren’t often represented in the contemporary painting realm. In this case I wanted to paint as much of the indigenous culture as I could while in Mexico.


Lake Chapala is a gay retirement mecca . What was your experience here as a gay man?

I had no idea! I didn’t really experience much of the gay scene while I was in Chapala because I was painting so much. It’s nice to know that this would be a welcoming community for me and my partner.

What were some of the highlights of your residency?

The four days we spent in Michoacán were so great for immersion. It was the only time I wasn’t working on paintings but I was taking a ton of reference photos the whole time. I realize it wasn’t a standard experience for the program so it was even more special and I’m grateful for all of the work local photographer Xill Fessenden put into organizing this trip. Also, traveling with the other residents really made the experience very special. I miss them!

What were some of the highlights of your residency?

The four days we spent in Michoacán were so great for immersion. It was the only time I wasn’t working on paintings but I was taking a ton of reference photos the whole time. I realize it wasn’t a standard experience for the program so it was even more special and I’m grateful for all of the work local photographer Xill Fessenden put into organizing this trip. Also, traveling with the other residents really made the experience very special. I miss them!

What could be improved in this residency program?

I couldn’t say. I can see the impact that this program has had on my work already and am just thankful to have been a part of it.



Interview with Saaraliisa Ylitalo


Saaraliisa Ylitalo’s three-month personal residency generated work and conversation about artist books, joomchi and the power of art to heal. We share Saaraliisa‘s fascinating life as a Global Nomad and the influences from her years in Japan, Costa Rica, Peru and South Africa.

You have spent a great deal of your life living abroad. Tell us about where you have been and how this has influenced your art.

Both my father and husband were in the Foreign Service, which made me a world traveler (also known as a Global Nomad).  Here are some places and things that have a power and wonder that have gone straight into my heart and come out in my work:

I am in awe of all forms of ritual and gratitude whether secular or spiritual and I am moved by places where our shared connection is profoundly evident.

  • Pre-Columbian gold work in Peru
  • Daily offerings and personal altars everywhere in Bali
  • Milagros all over Latin American churches
  • Historical ruins in Machu Picchu, Ollantaytambo, and Sacsayhuaman, all in Peru.  
  • Hieroglyphics, cave paintings and nonverbal forms of communication from many old cultures
  • Magical cites of the world that are special to me: Kyoto in Japan, Oaxaca in Mexico, Cusco in Peru and, Chichicastenango in Guatemala. 

We would love to hear about your mentors, education and artists whose work has had the most impact on you.

In my twenties I studied with Walter Nottingham and taught various fiberarts in Illinois and Wisconsin. Then I began 25 years of travel on four continents–living, teaching and exhibiting in Costa Rica, Japan, Peru and South Africa. During five years in Japan, I fell in love with washi paper and apprenticed with a master papermaker in Kyoto. Paper remains my chief passion but I combine it with many other textile techniques including  spinning paper thread (koyori or kami-ito) and a Korean technique called Joomchi, in which layers of paper are agitated together and form a strong paper felt.

I love so many artists but here are some of my all-time favorites: Magdalena Abakanovitz, Agnes Martin, Mark Rothko, Frida Kahlo, Lenore Tawney, Eva Hesse and Louise Bourgeois.

For many artists who work in fiber, there are childhood experiences that have drawn us to working with particular materials or aesthetics. Tell us about some of your fiber lineage.

Textiles have always fascinated me. I learned to sew when I was nine, and everything else followed: knitting, crocheting, weaving, spinning, dyeing, tatting…. By the time I got to college, I was ready to explore textiles as art.

Transparent Japanese paper appears as thin and fragile, but is so much stronger than other papers. Working with these contrasting qualities fascinates me and reflects how I feel about finding strength in each fragile moment. My Finnish background and many years in Japan have made me aware that these two disparate cultures both have an esthetic sparseness and “less is more” quality that I am deeply drawn to. Ethereality in my work is just part of how I speak visually. The Scandinavian esthetic is in my genes but my materials are distinctly Asian.


There are some persistent visual themes in your work: aged and rusted surfaces, grids and series, text and thread and using gold.  Tell us about these aspects of your work and what you love about them.

Using text conveys the maker’s hand, our universal need to communicate and the healing process of journaling. I often use text from Rumi’s poetry, which is full of sensitivity and grace.  The hanging threads reference an unfinished thought and a stitched line, the written word. I have used rust in my work for a long time. Its beauty speaks to me of the impermanence of everything and the beauty in aging and decay.

I always work in a series, until I have exhausted the thought or idea.  It is a part of the philosophy I learned from Walter Nottingham about structuring my freedom.   I take an idea and work with it in all different manifestations of the theme within my chosen limitations. I always use paper as if it were fabric, use textile techniques (so dye and not paint), and I almost always use gold. I am always trying to depict a moment of joy or a moment of despair, and the tension between the two.  Gold has a larger voice in some work and barely a voice in others. Yet even in the bleakest subjects I use gold to signify a way out of despair. I strive to translate our internal weather systems into visual form.

Everyone needs support for their art. Tell us about your artistic support network when you lived abroad and who supports you now that you have returned to the US?

From the beginning my husband was always my best cheerleader.  He was very well educated in all the arts, not because he was a maker, but because he was a voracious reader and curious about everything and he often helped me with references.  We all need a place to air thoughts and ideas where it is safe and where we are completely seen and not judged and he provided this for me. Since his sudden death in 2015 I have struggled to find support and I realize that I will find it in many different places, not just in one person.  For an introvert, this is not easy, but I am working towards extending my circle, and bringing new people into my life to share my art, ideas and feelings.

You are on a three-month personal residency in Chapala. Tell us why you are drawn to Mexico and how you visualize your time here.

Choosing to be in Mexico was easy because I speak Spanish and feel at home in this culture.  People are kind and friendly in Chapala and it is a very welcoming place. It is no surprise I feel more at ease outside of the US. This residency is about art and healing.   My best survival tool is my art, so I needed a space to take the time without the responsibilities of home life.

Read more about Saaralissa:

Instagram: @saaraliisa

(C) Anna Kuperberg 2004415-401-0806

Interview with Zahava Sherez

Zahava Sherez is one of a growing number of visiting artists who come to Lake Chapala for a personal residency and then fall in love and return over and over. -dek

You work in sculpture and mixed media. Tell us more about your materials and how you use them.

img3For the last 30 years I’ve worked as a carver with clay and stone.  I always approach a medium searching for new ways of reinventing it challenging both the medium and myself. In recent years I began adding mixed media and masonry colorants to my clay sculpture after learning about Clay Printing (a technique developed by Mitch Lyons).  I begin with a clayprint which I lift onto a synthetic texturized fabric, mount  on wood and add layers of mixed media. It’s a long and laborious process but it gives me the results I desire and a new way of expressing myself.

You have lived and worked in many countries. How has this influenced your work?

img1Our life journeys  are complex and have within them the positive and the negative, which deeply influence us. On one hand living in several cultures and countries (Argentina and Israel) has profoundly enriched me; hower, experiences of immigration, oppression, and war have scarred me. Over time, in searching for my truth and identity, I have integrated and embraced all of my parts. After years of feeling like an outsider and minority, I now consider myself a citizen of the world.  Our human experiences do not divide us (only labels do that) but unite us regardless of color, religion, or nationality.  These are recurring themes in my work.

NEW4You have had four personal residencies in Chapala. What keeps bringing you back?

I find Chapala, the culture, the town, the lake, and the entire area, to be a peaceful and inspiring haven. As soon as I drive from the airport up towards the lake and over the mountains, I begin to feel this special energy. The times I’ve spent in Chapala have enriched me physically, emotionally, mentally and creatively. Some of my best ideas have come to me during these residencies.

What does a typical studio day look like for you when you are here? What else do you enjoy doing in Chapala?

NEW7I am not a structured artist in the sense that I allow the flow to carry me, especially when I am in Chapala. I take plenty of time for contemplation, meditation, and long walks along the lake. I always take my iPad so I can take notes, photos, and draw whenever an idea or an image inspires me. Then, several days a week I work at the studio to further explore and develop them. I enjoy taking the bus into neighboring pueblos. The ride itself is an uplifting experience for me – I love how people relate to each other in an open and friendly way. I’ve made great friends in the area. We go to concerts, art openings, and eat out. There is a never-ending list of fabulous places to eat.


What were you working on during this most recent residency?

I have a very busy life back home. I teach almost everyday and I spend as much time in my studio as I possibly can. I’m quite involved in the San Francisco Bay Area art scene, and have a very rich family and social life. When new ideas begin to tickle my creative juices, I don’t always have the time to explore and expand them the way I would like. My residency this past July 2106 was all about expanding my ideas. I brought all materials I needed to work on these ideas. The time I spent in the studio in Chapala was extremely successful and rewarding. I returned to my home studio in Oakland, CA ready to work, having solved many technical problems during my month at the residency.

Tell us about your art school and career in California.

NEW 8About 30 years ago I decided to quit the corporate/business world. I wanted to be, live, and make art. I began teaching at various institutions. Over time, as my name and teaching methods became known, I was able to start my own school. I teach adults and seniors in my studio in Oakland, CA, I teach in upscale senior facilities and also at homeless seniors through Alameda County. I also teach privately in my studio or the artist’s. I taught stone carving at Pixar Animation Studios for 8 years and occasionally I’m invited to teach in other countries including workshops in stone carving, clay sculpture, mixed media, clay printing, and the business of art.  I primarily show my artwork in the San Francisco Bay Area, but I have also shown in New York, Corsica and most recently Paris. That was an amazing experience, to say the least.

NEW 6What advice do you have for other artists who are considering a personal residency in Mexico?

The only place I’ve spent time in Mexico is in and around Lake Chapala. I’ve had people back home worry about the dangers of going to Mexico. The truth is that I can’t remember feeling safer anyplace else. I’m a single woman and I walk around all over town and neighboring towns, feeling completely safe.  Since the US currency is very strong compared to the Mexican peso it is extremely affordable to treat yourself to massages, spas, facials, pedicures, acupuncture, eating out, luxuries that I have to think twice about back home.  I’ve found a doctor, a homeopath, and a masseuse – all excellent!  My advice is enjoy every moment, combine your creative goals with slowing down, enjoy the area and its people, pamper yourself and relax. The residency program is run very smoothly. Cobra and her team are friendly, available, and efficient. The casitas are very well maintained and equipped. The Middle Casita, where I usually stay, is very spacious with a large open live/work studio that is full of light and centrally located.

Where can we see more of your work?

You can view more of my work on my website:  Zahavasherez


louise saxon

Interview with Louise Saxton

Louise Saxton was our first resident from Australia. Her work with reclaimed embroidery is truly unique and you will enjoy her thought provoking interview. 


You work with reclaimed embroidery. Please tell us what you mean by that.

6a0133ed05424c970b01b8d151eaf6970c-120wiMy main art material over the past nine years is discarded needlework, which is primarily vintage or antique hand-made embroidery and lace.  Doilies, tablecloths, bed linen and clothing, which were painstakingly and lovingly made for functional and aesthetic domestic purposes in previous eras, are now culturally redundant in our ‘throw-away’ contemporary world.  I use the term “reclaimed” as I am claiming the original domestic objects for a new purpose.  I rescue these materials from charity/thrift shops and markets and I am fortunate that friends, family and even strangers also contribute needlework to my collection.

Tell us about the path you took to the reclaimed embroidery work you are doing.

My art school training was in drawing, painting and printmaking, but over the past nineteen years ‘the home’ has been central to my art practice.  While I have no formal training in textiles, I grew up in a family where making things by hand was valued and textiles were at the centre of domestic productivity and creativity.  My mother was an avid knitter and excellent dressmaker and she taught me to sew and knit my own clothes.  Also, my Nana constantly crocheted.  It’s interesting to reflect on my childhood in relation to my current practice in combining my use of reclaimed textiles with my reinterpretation of historical imagery.  As a teenager I reinterpreted a number of my mother’s vintage knitting patterns from the 1930’s and 40’s.  By knitting the garments in high-key colours popular in the 1970’s I was contemporising, while keeping alive, the exquisite patterns of an earlier era.  This is what I am trying to do in my practice today – to reinvigorate and also restore value to the exquisite needlework and pay homage to the artisan needleworkers of the past.

You work with pins more than stitching. Tell us why and how this technique developed.

6a0133ed05424c970b01bb086c4a8d970d-320wiI rarely stitch down any of my textiles, although I have in the past used a vintage sewing machine to stitch the reclaimed needlework to layers of tulle and silk.  Now I primarily use stainless steel or brass lace-pins to hold the textile fragments in place.  This adds a sculptural element to the relief-work, as there are countless pins in each assemblage.  In the case of my bird imagery in particular, the pins add a sense of light shimmering on the feathers. 

The pins also have significance beyond their practical use in their fascinating and gruesome historical origins and also in what they may represent metaphorically and conceptually in terms of pain.  This includes the painstaking labour of needlework traditions and the pain of loss associated with disappearing traditions and species in the natural world.  I am also interested in the fact that during the industrial revolution the ‘pointers’ whose sole job it was to grind the head of the pin, inhaled the tiny shards of metal and acquired a deadly lung disease known as pointer’s rot. 

I have developed calluses on my fingers from all the pinning, unpinning and re-pinning it takes to make each of my pieces and every time I get a pin prick, it is a sharp reminder of the pain associated with these traditions over the centuries.

6a0133ed05424c970b01b8d151ebb7970c-320wiWhat have you learned about embroidery and other needlework traditions that you can share with our readers?

Needlework is an ancient art form, beautiful as well as practical, and whether simple or complex in design it is painstakingly constructed.  Historically, handmade embroidery and lace were as economically valuable as gold and silver. Many cultures have needlework traditions and it has often been the burden of the poor to create exquisite garments for royalty and nobility.  Even in indigenous cultures which don’t embroider or make lace, there is often exquisitely woven baskets and other vessels, or intricately woven or beaded clothing and headdress.  Needlework is cross-cultural, but sadly in most parts of the world today, it is in danger of disappearing. 

As the first Australian to attend 360 Xochi Quetzal, tell us what drew you to a residency in Mexico.

6a0133ed05424c970b01bb086c4b09970d-120wiInitially, I was drawn to the residency by a stunning photo of Lake Chapala under the spell of a magnificent sunset, which was posted on Textile Fibre Forum’s online newsletter, with the heading “Free Artist Residency in Mexico”.  What drew me to the residency in relation to my own practice was the fact that Mexico still has a living tradition of embroidery, albeit a fragile one.  I also found it fascinating that the residency was named for the goddess of artisans, Xochi Quetzal, and in particular she is the protector of embroiderers and weavers! 

On a practical level I was drawn to apply because the program offered a self-contained living/working environment, which looked (and indeed was) very comfortable and aesthetically inspiring.  The location on the largest freshwater lake in Mexico, with an abundance of bird life was also a wonderful draw.  The fact that the residency is sponsored and run by North Americans also made it very accessible, as I don’t speak Spanish.

What were some of the highlights of your residency?

6a0133ed05424c970b01b7c7c80156970b-320wiThe opportunity to live and work in Mexico for a month and experience another language and culture every day; to spend time with other artists connected to the residency and make connections with some local artisans; to seek out and acquire (with much support from the residency patrons and other knowledgeable people in Chapala) some exquisite embroidery for my collection.  I was also able to commission three Mexican flowers embroidered in silk by an artisan in the nearby pueblo of Ajijic.  Along with the exquisite and rare Tehuantapec embroidery I purchased in Tlaquepaque, my collection and my next body of work, have been greatly enriched.

6a0133ed05424c970b01bb086c4cd3970d-320wiWhat can you tell us about the work in your upcoming show at Gould Galleries in Melbourne?

My second solo show at Gould Galleries will be in November 2015. Is the celebration of flora – its glorious variety, colour, form, its strength and fragility. I continue my use of reclaimed needlework (and other materials) including antique textiles purchased in Mexico,  to make a link between the domestic archives of home and the public archives of the museum and, to draw attention to the loss of domestic art traditions and species in the natural world. 

Read more:


What could be improved in the 360 Xochi Quetzal residency program?

I really could not fault the program for anything, as it was so supportive and inspiring.  We were each provided with a beautiful, self-contained casita in a fabulous location, a food allowance, good Internet and an entre into a community of interesting people associated with the residency program.  We were given an opportunity to relax, explore and work as we each desired.  We were given the opportunity to have fun and form new friendships, through art and immersion in the vibrant life that is Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico! My heartfelt gratitude goes to Deborah and Christian for this inspiring, once in a lifetime opportunity. 

6a0133ed05424c970b01b7c7c80350970b-800wi See more of Louise’s art on her website:

Read more about Louise in Textile Fibre Forum:  Louise was recently interviewed in Textile Fibre Forum, the premier textile magazine in Austrailia. To read her interview, order a back copy of issue No. 117, Spring 2015:


Interview with Yuki Siroi

YUKI SIROI: Berlin Muralist Comes to 360 Xochi Quetzal

Yuki Siroi submitted a breathtaking application to 360 Xochi Quetzal that included a mural that she had painted in an abandoned building in Berlin. Although it is always hard to make resideny decisions, her intuitive Aztec imagery and original murals jumped her to the top of the finalists and eventually to our winners. Yuki is also our first European resident and you will enjoy reading her interview and seeing the progress of her Mexican murals. -dek

You are a Japanese muralist who divides her time between Berlin and Tokyo. Give us some more background about yourself as an artist and why it was important for you to attend a residency at this point in your career.

YS2I’ve been working as an illustrator in Berlin. Most of my works have been done on paper or screen. In 2012 I had chance to work on my first mural and I found it was challenging to paint large scale and develop new style of my art at the same time.

Visiting a new county as an artist has great meaning for my art practice, and provides me with much more daily intention and concentration. Traveling energizes me and also reinforces the idea that the art world is very large and interconnected. Being part of the community in a residency means involving yourself, interacting with others, creating ideas, and being more conscious of your own existence. I was hoping to break my daily routine by adapting to the local culture, communicating with new people and seeing how my visual language could surpass my current limits.

ys3How did you structure your time during your artist residency?

I didn’t plan any project before I travelled to Chapala, because I wanted to explore physical and emotional experiences inside the residency house and outside in the community. I also wanted to discover public spaces where I could present my art. I tried to absorb as much information as possible everyday and then figure out how I could communicate through my visual language.

How did you hear about 360 Xochi Quetzal and why did you choose to apply to a program in Mexico?

I found 360 Xochi Quetzal on the Res Artis website I have been interested in tribal art since I started painting murals. Therefore I thought visiting Mexico would be a great opportunity to learn about Aztec culture and regional folk art and handcrafts.

YS4You haven’t been to North America before.  Tell us about how you found your way around Chapala and explored the region.

Loads of things were new to me such as the colorful houses, street dogs, nature, climate, and unpaved roads. I wasn’t able to speak Spanish, but Mexicans are very friendly. After few days it wasn’t necessary to be scared to talk to anyone.  Mexico is much less organized compared to my home country, which often made it more difficult to figure out how to get what I needed. But that was part of the adventure.

You were able to complete two murals during your residency. Your imagery is very Aztec. What are your creative sources and what ideas were you exploring?

YS5I have been studying patterns in nature and tribal arts. I visited the National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City and Regional museums in Guadalajara where lots of art objects captured my attention. Through them I learned about the historical background, spiritual messages, and deeper meaning of primitive crafts. The imagery of my murals grew out of this study and the influence of the world around me in Chapala.

Your previous artist residency was in Berlin. How did this focused time in Mexico compare to that experience and how did it influence your work and thinking?

YS6During the artist residency in Berlin, I lived and worked with ten artists for three months. We had weekly programs and frequent deadlines to prepare presentations. There were always other people around to discuss or share my ideas.

In Chapala, I lived alone in a house and my schedule was entirely up to me. I challenged myself to concentrate on my work, make productive use of my time and create my own deadlines. It was great opportunity to practice self-discipline. The writer, Karen Lentz, was living in the other residency house where I painted the first mural and it was great to connect with her.

As a muralist, your work takes you into the community. Tell us about the people you met and things you learned.

YS7The first mural was located near the Chapala Malecon, which is a very busy street in a residential area. During the seven days I was working on the wall, I spoke to neighbors, parking workers, garbage collectors and the roaming Mariachi bands. Day by day I felt more involved in the local culture, and even learned some Spanish. During production, I met a Mexican man who introduced me to people at the Chapala city hall who paved the way to approving the second mural.

I painted the second mural at the Ajijic skateboard park, which was another small village by the lake a few towns away. I was able to easily travel there by bus. There were lots of youth and ex-pat Americans and Canadians who stopped by to watch my progress. Everyday I met new people from diverse backgrounds and found ways to connect and discuss different points of view.

What were some of the highlights of the residency and what parts were hard for you?

YS8As a Japanese, I learned many differences between our cultures. People in Mexico have more freedom than in other cities or countries. If I could speak Spanish, I would have had more of a chance to communicate with the local kids who enjoyed watching me while I was painting on the wall. One of the important things I realized during the residency was a heightened awareness about the connection between humans and nature. Being at the 360 Xochi Quetzal residency was definitely valuable and will lead to the next step for my art practice.

How did the natural surroundings and lush colors of Mexico influence your work?YS9

Most of the buildings in big cities tend to have sober colors. Here, homeowners could freely express their creativity and choose a wide range of colors that illuminated the streets. I loved the combination of vivid colors on the homes and gardens contrasted with the dusty streets and bright blue sky.  As a result of this influence, I decided use color for my first wall instead of just black and white.



Some artists come to a residency with a particular creative game plan. Others just arrive open to whatever inspires them at the moment. How did you approach your residency and how did your studio time compare to what you anticipated?

Although I had a desire to paint a wall, I was open to whatever possibilities emerged. Luckily I already had permission to paint the wall of one of the residency houses before I arrived Mexico.  In the end I painted outside most of the time, but I also spent time in my studio sketching, doing yoga, and writing in my diary at night.

What else can you share about your residency experience? Were there any surprises?

YS11Although Mexico is a developing country, I never had a bad experience in Chapala.  People are very kind and educated. I had such a rich time and am so grateful to have experienced life in Mexico.

To read more about Yuki Shiroi, visit her website or Linkedin page: and



Interview with Alice B. Fogel


Alice B. Fogel is the New Hampshire Poet Laureate, a five-year Governor-appointed position that enables her to promote poetry throughout the state and beyond.  Alice has also published five collections of poetry and one guide to appreciating poetry even if you don`t “get” it.  We share highlights from our recent conversation with Alice so our readers can hear about her many innovative poetry programs.

What is the mission of a Poet Laureate?

There are poets laureate in all but 5 states of the United States and additional positions in many cities. Our mission is to bring poetry to everyone regardless of age, education or status. I have free reign to imagine and implement programs, some of which I will describe for you.

Youth Poet Laureate

I’m excited to have initiated a 1-year position for  a committed high school poet to write and advocate for poetry. The inaugural YPL is Portsmouth high school senior Ella McGrail, an avid writer and activist. This new position is supported by the NH Poetry Society, the NH Arts Council and the NH Writer’s Project. Ella will travel to schools and offer readings to students and teachers.

Refugee Poetry Project

Along with some of my poetry friends, and an art gallery open mic, we raised money for the Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success (ORIS), which focuses on farming for immigrants and refugees in NH. The International Institute of New England for Refugees and Immigrants is hosting me and Portsmouth poet laureate Mike Nelson to offer creative writing workshops designed to give an opportunity for refugees to express themselves creatively and improve their English. Some of the countries represented by people resettled in NH through the IINE are Burundi, Nepal, China, Congo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Columbia.

Raining Poetry: Bringing poetry to the streets

In a collaboration between industry and the arts, we have identified a kind of concrete protector product that we’ll use to stencil poems directly onto downtown concrete. The product dries clear and invisible. When it rains, the poems materialize on the sidewalk, only to disappear again as the suns comes out. We are rolling the project out in rural Walpole, NH and have hopes of introducing it to many other towns in the state.

Gathering New England Poets Laureate

At the 2017 annual Massachusetts Poetry Festival in Salem, Mass, I convened a first-ever meeting of all the New England poets laureate. We read poems to each other and our audience, and discussed the projects we have initiated in our states.

Vermont: Chard deNiord
Rhode Island: Tina Cane
Maine: Stuart Kestenbaum
Connecticut: Rennie McQuilkin

(Note: There is no poet laureate in Massachusetts despite periodic efforts to establish a position.)

Published Poet Showcase: An Anthology of NH Poets

I collaborated with Sydney Hall, Jr., the owner of Hobblebush Books, located in southern New Hampshire, to collect and publish the first print anthology of living NH poets. The collection is 125 pages and represents a wide variety of styles.

Published my sixth book and fifth collection of poems: A Doubtful House

Bauhan Publishing has just released my most recent collection of poems. These poems are written in the voice of a house listening to its inhabitants. A Doubtful House explores what happens to boundaries–psychological, emotional, physical, even syntactical–when people live together for a long time.

“Challenging, wildly inventive, philosophical, as intense as it is intimate, A Doubtful House reveals and deepens our understanding of the strangeness within the ordinary… Her boundary-pushing syntax emphasizes the inevitable connects and disconnects of human beings in close proximity. A Doubtful House is ambitious and risk-taking, yet there’s a vulnerability in Fogel’s voice that humanizes and, yes, even celebrates that common struggle to remain ourselves while giving so much of that self to another.”

—John Sibley Williams, author of Disinheritance

Since this is a five-year appointment, I have completed other projects and have several more in the pipeline.

  • I have compiled a list of all living and recently deceased NH poets. This compilation of 100 poets is organized by town and county so that libraries and schools can invite poets to do programs and buy their books.
  • There is now also a list of all reading series around the state of New Hampshire. Many of these are ongoing series, and they are held in a wide array of venues including barns, libraries, meeting houses, coffee houses, and bookstores. Hundreds of people are going out to listen to poetry every month and this compilation will make it even easier for readers to find a venue in their area.Along with the NH Writers Project, I am developing a collection of ten poetry curricula for educators, with themes, readings, prompts and guidelines.
  • Along with the NH Writers Project, I am developing a collection of ten poetry curricula for educators, with themes, readings, prompts and guidelines.
  • The NH Chapter of the Women’s Caucus for Art is collaborating with me to develop a traveling exhibit of interconnected art and poetry, which will first show in 2018.
  • In my efforts to bring poetry to the widest possible audience, I have presented readings, talks, writing workshops, and programs to a variety of participants, including (but not limited to) prisoners, the elderly in retirement homes, the mentally ill, children, teachers as part of their professional development, and poets themselves at all stages of their writing lives.

Since you asked, here’s some advice for poets young and old

Be ambitious for your poems; make them as great as they can be.

Don’t give up on your poems too soon; keep pushing them to become more interesting and layered.

Don’t give up from rejection; it’s part of the writing life.

Things that are important to me as a poet

I am interested in playing with language to see what it can do besides “communicate” thought, or how it can express consciousness through more than simply verbal meaning; language is my medium in the same way as paint or any other material is for a visual artist.

I work with sound, texture, form, and movement as well as imagery, metaphor, and sense, to achieve an emotional experience.

My hope is that reading or listening to my poems will teach you how to enter into them or let them enter you.

Tell us about your experience jurying for the 360 Xochi Quetzal Writing Residency. What have you learned, and observed from the applications? Do you have any advice for prospective applicants?

Jurying for the 360XQ Residency is a very exciting experience. I’m inspired and amazed. Many of you are working on innovative, unexpected, and meaningful projects, and the quality of writing itself is often exceptional. I’ve been taken by a simple damn good story told in a solid, convincing voice. I’ve been captivated by creative research into why memory and communication so often go awry.  I’ve been moved by a series of poems about identity and place, and by a play about a family struggling with mental illness. The thrill of discovery that I experience in reading so many of these applications is only dashed by having to choose only two writers per residency. I also think about who will benefit most from the residency, taking into consideration factors like age range, experience, and recognition or lack of it. My hope is that any writers who have worked hard on their writing, and are committed to taking it as far as possible–for themselves and for readers–try applying. And please remember that any rejection note is both an invitation to revisit your work and a subjective decision.

Alice’s other recent books:

INTERVAL: Poems based on Bach’s Goldberg Variations (2015)

This brilliant collection won the Nicholas Schaffner Award for Music and Literature and the 2016 NH Literary Award in Poetry and was featured in O Magazine.

STRANGE TERRAIN: A Poetry Handbook for the Reluctant Reader (2009)

This warm and accessible resource is written for anyone wanting to learn more about how to read poetry.

Visit Alice’s website:


Alice B Fogel is New Hampshire’s poet laureate. Her 2017 collection is A Doubtful House, and 2015’s Interval: Poems Based on Bach’s “Goldberg Variations,” won the Nicholas Schaffner Award for Music in Literature and the 2016 New Hampshire Literary Award in Poetry. Her previous book, Be That Empty, was a national poetry bestseller. She is also the author of the guide for readers and teachers, Strange Terrain, on how to appreciate poetry without necessarily “getting” it. A recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and other awards, her poems have been anthologized in Best American Poetry, Poet’s Choice, Poetry Daily, The Poetry Foundation, and elsewhere, and have been nominated nine times for the Pushcart Prize. She works one-on-one with learning-disabled students at Landmark College in Putney, Vermont, is an avid hiker, and lives in Walpole, New Hampshire.